FUTURE ISLANDS Thrill gets 8/10

Future Islands



Future Islands’ rendition of their song Seasons (Waiting on You) on Late Show with David Letterman in 2014 was one of the great life-changing live performances of recent times, for both performer and viewer. Watching frontman Samuel T. Herring’s frenzied and furious dancing was to witness an artist truly seizing his opportunity; after years of gruelling touring, paying his dues, his network television debut wasn’t going to merely pass him or his bandmates by. 

It’s sad that the energy of Future Islands won’t be felt in a live setting for the foreseeable future but the band are continuing regardless. Their sixth studio album, As Long As You Are, is scheduled for release on October 9 via their usual label partner 4AD. Elsewhere there are changes. The band has welcomed touring drummer Mike Lowry as an official member to make it a quartet. They’ve also taken on co-production duties with Steve Wright. For the video for new single Thrill – the second to be released from the new LP after For Sure – Herring created and starred in a homemade video, a product of COVID-19’s lockdown. 

Where For Sure was action-packed and powerful, Thrill goes the other way. The video offers an unvarnished focus on Herring’s face. He emotes the ballad hard; Future Islands has never shied away from sentimentality and romanticism and Thrill is emblematic of their approach. It’s a classic slice of downtempo synth-pop. The instrumentation is hushed and hesitant to begin with before it briefly rises to match Herring’s increased volume. While he has never been blessed with the strongest singing voice, Herring more than makes up for it in passion (see the aforementioned Letterman performance). 

Herring said that Thrill is “a song about battling addiction in Greenville, North Carolina, where Future Islands began.” He relates his problems to nature, specifically the great Tar River from his home state. “Bluewater/ Black rider/ Keep on rolling/ Keep on riding,” he sighs. And as he connects the continuous state of his emotions with the unceasing water, the song retains a sense of hope amidst the melancholia. 

Thrill, in this way, is classic Future Islands. Big on synths, big on emotions, big on ideas. It leaves listeners with plenty of hope for the rest of the forthcoming album.